Review: Poynt


From Ovi Maps to Google Maps to Here and Now, there are more 'what's around you' applications that you can count on every mobile platform. And into this crowded arena comes Poynt, written in Qt and offering business, restaurant and movie look-ups around your current location, complete with Ovi Maps integration for driving directions. Is it slick enough or comprehensive enough to matter?

Author: Poynt

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Screenshot, Poynt Screenshot, Poynt Screenshot, Poynt 

Like many recent applications, Poynt is implemented in Qt, which immediately marks it as predominantly for Symbian^3 phones. It also means that, in theory, there's easy access to your device's main functions, including telephony and mapping/navigation.

It's always nice when an application throws you an 'easter egg', an extra, and Poynt manages to do this up front by displaying the current weather for your location - though it's a simple weather status, there's no forecast of weather later, which seems a missed opportunity by the Poynt folks. After all, you can tell the current weather by just looking out the window.

But Poynt's main functions are in the three search areas: businesses, movies and restaurants. The idea is to tie in some well known brands - Thomson Local, Bing, West World Media, OpenTable and Toptable - and offer their databases to location-aware mobile users in app form. Poynt then goes the extra mile by trying to tie up your next step too, whether it's communicating with the place found or trying to get there.

Is it successful? Not entirely, though the commercial hook-ups do bring better coverage than for most other solutions.

Taking each module in turn:

  • Businesses
    This module is entirely search based. Thomson Local and Bing provide the data and it's pretty complete, as you might expect. Type in (for example) "Locksmith" and you get a decent local selection. For each business found, there's a details page, as shown here.
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    'Call' is a direct link to the phone function, obviously. 'Map' shows the business's location in Ovi Maps, while 'Directions' also launches Ovi Maps but inserts the location into the route planner - just tap on 'Show route' to get started. In theory.
    Screenshot, Poynt Screenshot, Poynt

    I did note that if Ovi Maps is currently in 'offline' mode (for whatever reason) then you subsequently get 'No route found', as shown above, which may catch some people out.
    Finally, 'Make search location' changes the point (ref 'Poynt' - get it?) being searched from, which might be useful if you're researching a trip and want to find businesses close to each other to save travel costs.
  • Movies
    This module works slightly differently, giving four extra views, 'Theaters Nearby', 'Movies Nearby', 'Top 10' and 'Genres', all with obvious functions. The first two are again based on your current location, as determined by GPS. I hadn't heard of West World Media before, but their cinema and screening database seems very complete. 
    Screenshot, Poynt Screenshot, Poynt Screenshot, Poynt
    As before, there are contact and mapping options, plus a scrollable pane of 'Today's Showtimes', with nice movie poster thumbnails, rating, duration and timings. And, where the cinema concerned has affiliate links with West World Media, a 'Buy' button for ordering tickets. 
    Screenshot, Poynt Screenshot, Poynt Screenshot, Poynt 

    It's somewhat telling that the main ticket ordering page is titled "But tickets" (sic) and disappointing to see such a primitive form for accepting your order - tapping in a check box brings up a full alphanumeric full-page dialog. It turns out you have to manually enter a number here, but it's not 100% obvious. And the 'Add up' button is just a plain black rectangle. If you persevere then the system does work, but iPhone-friendly it isn't.
     Screenshot, Poynt Screenshot, Poynt

    I did like the 'Add to Calendar' options throughout, plus the movie synopses.
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    The 'Top 10' and 'Genres' browsers bring up movies sorted differently and it's a generally pleasing way to leaf through what's out there at the moment without having to go find a desktop computer.
  • Restaurants
    In analogous fashion, we have 'Restaurants Nearby' and 'Cuisines'. No less than four data sources are integrated for this module, so it's not surprising that the search is again comprehensive.
     Screenshot, Poynt Screenshot, Poynt Screenshot, Poynt
    I couldn't spot anything significant that was missing from my locale. Disappointingly, there's only barebones detail for most items, much like the business section, with contact number, address and mapping/navigation links. A select few higher end restaurants, sourced through the toptable database, showed 'Reserve a table' options, but clicking through revealed 'We are sorry...' messages for any day I tried. Clearly, there's a lot of work to be done here by the industry before we're ready for online booking and eating on a larger scale.
    Screenshot, Poynt Screenshot, Poynt Screenshot, Poynt
    The one extra of note is that 'Add to Calendar' is also present here for all restaurants, defaulting to a one hour slot starting at the next hour boundary, which seems sensible, for entering a restaurant meet-up into your diary. 

All of which definitely seems worth having installed on your smartphone, despite being a little patchy and quirky in places. However, there are other, bigger caveats to note, related to the Ovi Maps integration, and these dented my confidence in Poynt significantly. The initial handover to Ovi Maps works well enough, in that the appropriate location (and description) get passed and either shown in the main map view or inserted into a new 'route'.

The problem comes after map viewing or navigation, when you want to get back to Poynt. On the review E7 (newly reset, so more or less a virgin device), Ovi Maps didn't close down properly - I was left with a frozen 'busy' indicator, as shown below, right. In some cases it was possible to switch back to Poynt using the Symbian multitasking and also kill Maps, but in other cases Poynt crashed completely and had to be restarted. Given how big a part Ovi Maps plays in Poynt's functionality, it's disappointing that the integration has such a large flaw.

Screenshot, Poynt Screenshot, Poynt

Two wait screens - the one on the left lasts just 3 seconds and is understandable; the one on the right is frozen and happens when you try to back out Ovi Maps and into Poynt - and causes all sorts of problems

Other, more minor, flaws included some views not letting the display time-out work properly - it seemed that regular cellular reconnections were keeping the app/screen awake - which is something of a recipe for a flat battery if Poynt were to be left running in the foreground while you went off to do something else, for example.

Plus the icon for Poynt in the Ovi Store also shows 'People' and 'Gas' modules, presumably available in the app on other mobile platforms, but these are nowhere to be seen in the Symbian version. Maybe they're coming soon?

Finally, the way 'Portrait' or 'Landscape' has to be manually set, rather than relying on auto-sensing this from the device's accelerometer, is just plain inelegant.

Having high profile commercial datasets on tap in a free application can't really be sneezed at, but in truth there's a lot more that needs to happen for Poynt to be a popular success on Symbian. More modules, datasets with more buy/reserve links, and the Ovi Maps liasons completely bug-free. Right now, Poynt stands halfway between proof of concept and a fully mature application for real world users.

Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, 30 March 2011

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